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Genetically Modified Organisms

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Vanessa Layne

on 26 October 2013

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Transcript of Genetically Modified Organisms

Analyzing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Food Policy
Main Idea: Trust in the Synergistic Mechanisms of Voluntaryism, Individual Freedom, and the Free Market.
Main Idea: Mandatory labeling is a policy alternative most people prefer. It is the idea that any and all foods that are genetically modified are properly labeled to let the consumer know what they are purchasing.

Those in favor of labeling emphasize consumers' right to know what's in their food.

Opponents of labeling point out the expense and logistical difficulties of labeling, and the fact that no significant differences have been found between GE and conventional foods.
In the European Union (EU), genetically modified foods with mandatory labeling has disappeared from retail shelves

First genetically modified labeling appeared in 1997.
Main idea: GMOs are bad, mmmkay?

The rationale is that government intervention in the free market is necessary to protect the consumer from harmful products and bad, uninformed choices;
and to prevent ecological damage by prohibiting the growth of GMO plants and the development of transgenic animals.

Such action is taken, because 100% containment is impossible.
Consider the following basis when choosing a policy alternative:
The appropriate policy depends on the size of the market and the public's willingness to pay for non-GMO foods and/or tolerate GMOs.
Costs of policy implementation must be weighed against public opinion, i.e. whether the public actually cares or not.
Miles' Law - "Where you sit depends on where you stand."

The debate over labeling policy may prove to be a farce, because the outcome may be the same under either mandatory or voluntary labeling schemes.

In other words, the end-result of voluntary labeling would be the same as if mandatory-labeling requirements were imposed, with major cost differences.
What are GMOs?
What are Genetically Modified Organisms?
What Does Voluntary Labeling Entail?
The Relativity of Coexistence
Based upon Voluntaryism, collaboration, self-ownership, and most importantly, individual freedom: "to each his own."

Voluntary labeling policy trusts non-profit organizations and private associations to set, certify, and apply strict non-GMO food standards and labels to inform consumers.

Some producers may choose to label, while others may not; some food producers may use Non-GMO labels as positive marketing tools.

Health-conscious consumers create a market for "GMO-Free" food labeling, i.e. the people who are willing to pay a premium for organic products.

Kosher food certification model offers a vision of what can be achieved via voluntary labeling absent government intervention in the free market.
Coexistence refers to a solution in which diverse agricultural systems can operate in proximity without mixing or compromising economic value.

Coexistence Policy
entails a sensible management practice in which farmers can produce GMO crops alongside those who choose to farm organically.

Regulatory goal is minimal impact of "genetic pollution" of non-GE

Consumers are able to choose between organic and GMO food without restriction; individuals can "vote" with their wallets.

If successful, this effort can ensure that all forms of agriculture thrive so that food can remain abundant, affordable, and safe.

Assessment of Voluntary Labeling Policy
Empirical Evidence: Surveys & Public Opinion
Voluntary Labeling in Action
Highlights & Final Assessment of Voluntary Labeling Policy
Voluntary Labeling is a demand-driven, market-based approach that offers freedom of choice while protecting consumers and supporting diverse economic interests.
Vanessa M. Layne
Alyssa Alonso
Gloria Rhodes
High--Fair distribution of costs/benefits; preserves food choice, access, and affordability without imposing undue burden, but information asymmetry may affect consumer rights and genetic pollution that affects organic farmers' financially.

Efficiency (Cost-Benefit)
: Medium--Benefits typically exceed costs;
Flexible policy operates via demand, thus reducing cost of regulation. May not provide consumers with enough free choice or protection from GMOs, i.e. "false labeling" or lack of disclosure.

High--Immediately feasible; only the few worried consumers will look for labeled non-GMO options, which minimizes cost of and need for excessive regulation.

Social Acceptability:
Not as popular as other restrictive policies; in environment with negative perception of GMOs, people may think it does not provide enough security
Noticeable gender-based differences in preferences for organic versus GMO food.
Females tend to eat healthier, have higher nutritional knowledge, higher engagement in food-related activities.
Females are more willing to pay premium for non-GMO food compared to men.
Most AMERICAN consumers do not care about the presence of GMOs.

Given that you can label food GMO-free and non-GMO products have not conquered the market over conventional food, we can conclude that the majority of Americans simply do not care about how their food is made...

Hence, the costs of other compulsory policies, e.g. mandatory labeling, would outweigh the benefits of informing a few health-conscious consumers.
What Does a Total Ban on GMOs Entail?
Assessment of a Total Ban Policy
Low--Arbitrarily-imposed ban stigmatizes GMOs and unfairly burdens producers, impedes market forces; disregards diversity in food preferences and farming methods.
Policy action increases cost of food, limiting consumer food choices, which discriminates against lower-income groups.

Efficiency (Cost-Benefits):
Low--Cost exceeds benefits.
Cost is borne by taxpayers and consumers.

Low--Impossible to contain or detect all GMOs and trace substances of GE, i.e. imported foods may contain GMOs.

Policy may not be enforced properly, GE food exemptions may be granted, and infeasible to ban a significant share of U.S. exports.

Social Acceptability:
Low to High, often controversial option--dependent on public awareness and political culture.
What We Can Learn from GMO Bans Worldwide
Highlights & Final Assessment of a Total Ban on GMOs
Bans around the world have proven to be complicated:
Some countries have total bans like much of New Zealand and Europe, including Ireland, which has banned the cultivation of GMOs and has a voluntary labeling system in place.
Japan is largely anti-GMO and does not grow any GMOs on its soil, but is one of the largest importers of GM canola.
Russia recently banned all imports of GM corn, and is currently considering a total ban on all GMOs.
Austria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria and Luxembourg have all banned the cultivation and sale of GMO foods in their countries.
Mexico recently imposed an indefinite ban on GMO corn.
Germany bans GMO corn, but does not extend the ban to all GE foods.

The variation in each country's laws and view regarding GMOs has complicated international trade relations.
The rationale is that a market-based approach is more feasible than government intervention, because the market responds more effectively to consumer demands and supports niche markets.
Acknowledges that diversity exists in regards to consumer food preferences, farming methods, and public awareness.
The rationale is that Mandatory labeling aims to provide consumer choice.
Assessment of Mandatory Labeling Policy
Mandatory labeling would allow for the consumer to have all the information to make the decision on which foods to buy. However, companies argue that labeling products puts a negative effect in the consumers mind when there has not been proven differences in natural products and genetically modified foods.

Efficiency (Cost-Benefit):
Not costless. Requires segregation and verification of foods.

What kinds of labels would be used, where would the labels be placed, how would the message be worded.

Social/Political Acceptability:
Socially accepted by consumers but not by companies.
What Does Mandatory Labeling Entail?
Those in favor of labeling emphasize consumers' right to know what's in their food.

Opponents of labeling point out the expense and logistical difficulties of labeling, and the fact that no significant difficulties have been found between genetically modified and conventional foods.

What percentage of genetically modified foods must exist to classify as GMO?

A commonly proposed threshold level is one percent (1%).

In other words, if any ingredient of a product exceeds 1% GE content, the product needs labeling.
Highlights & Final Assessment of Mandatory Labeling Policy
Mandatory labeling of the use or non-use of GMOs informs the public but does so at a higher cost in that the entire market must be segregated and labeled even though only a portion of producers or consumers care about the attribute.

Governments are likely to prefer voluntary or mandatory approaches based on their perceptions of what proportion of their citizens want information about the technology.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), aka Genetically Engineered (GE), are plants or animals created through gene splicing techniques of biotechnology.

This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.
For example, scientists have combined fish genes into strawberries.

No long-term testing has been conducted to understand the dangers of GMOs before approval in the U.S.
What Foods are Most Likely to Contain GMOS?
What are the Health Risks of GMOs?
What are the Environmental Impacts of GMOs?
The Failure of Current U.S. Regulatory Framework on GMO-Food Policy
Brief Overview of Policy Alternatives
The following alternatives were analyzed:

Voluntary Labeling
Mandatory Labeling
Total Ban on GMOs
Policy is immediately feasible, as it is accomplished spontaneously, on a purely voluntary basis, absent excessive government force.
Firms will voluntarily label use or non-use of GMOs, if the private benefits of doing so exceed the costs, thereby voluntarily placing the burden on ethical market forces as opposed to all taxpayers.
Thus, as experience has shown, a niche market has developed for non-GMO products with companies incurring the costs of segregation and preservation of food integrity in return for a higher price or sustained market share.
Verifiable health hazards: allergic reactions, carcinogens, toxicity, and rising antibiotic resistance of human pathologies, all of which have long-term health effects and can lead to death.

Other risks: lowered nutritional value of GMO/GE food and possible damage to vital organs like the kidneys and the stomach; reproductive problems such as infertility and lower sperm count, accelerated aging.

recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) is linked to Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) which is a potent chemical that increases the chances of human breast, prostate, and colon cancer by 400-500%.

Studies on the effects of rBGH also indicate decreased lifespan of cows, birth defects, and antibiotic resistance which contributes to a higher rate of udder infection that is normally not found in healthy dairy cows.
General Environmental Impact:
Decline in biodiversity
Loss of non-GMO and organic plant species and crops
Radical alteration of the genetic pool of which the long-term consequences have not been studied adequately enough.

GMOs introduce environmentally-disruptive chemicals, soil-polluting ingredients that can make soil sterile, and mutated species, which disturb the natural balance of the environment.
Sidenote: Evidence of Ecological Harm
Common pests have evolved into Superpests that are immune to the insecticides.

Common weeds have evolved into herbicide-resistant Superweeds.
This in turn increases pesticide use.

GE pollen from GM corn endangers monarch butterflies and helpful pollinators like bees

Pollinators, including birds, bees, butterflies and the wind, carry GE pollen from genetically modified crops like corn, which can easily spread to organic plants.

Microbiologists warn that GMO plants can create mutant strains of plant viruses that have the potential to destroy entire plant species and crops.
Agricultural biotechnology began around 1970s, but market introduction did not begin until the 1990s.

USDA Estimations: in 2010, 93% of all soybeans, 78% of all wheat, and 70% of all corn grown in the US were GMO.

GMOs include: potato, wheat, rapeseed (canola), rice, tomato, alfalfa, squash, cotton, tobacco, sugar beets….

You probably eat GMOS everyday...It is estimated that conventional food may contain up to 70% or more of transgenic ingredients.

Over 29 nations and counting have planted millions of acres of GMO crops. The U.S. is the major producer of GMO crops with over 170 million acres of commercial GMOs planted.
The U.S. lacks an articulate policy that can effectively govern coexistence among GMO and non-GMO crops, and also protect consumers and the environment from long-term harm.

GMOs managed like conventional, non-GMO products:
The basic premise of current US regulatory framework holds that GMOs pose no new risks, albeit contrary to evidence.

Three U.S. agencies operate under the 1986 'Coordinated Framework for Regulation and Biotechnology' to manage GMOs:
1) The FDA, 2) the USDA, and 3) the EPA
Evidence of Regulatory Failure
U.S regulatory agencies have not acted in the public’s best interest at times:

The FDA withheld and manipulated data to hide the adverse health effects that Monsanto’s rBGH had on healthy dairy cows.

The FDA subjectively approved the majority of GMOs without proper labeling guidelines, preventive action like field-testing and monitoring, and with little information about long-term consequences.

The USDA endorsed over 80 different GMO crops without completing an Environmental Impact Statement for any of them, as required by current policy.

While a significant amount of people have protested or shown concern over GMOs, American policymakers supported the agricultural biotechnology sector and have not enforced current policy properly.

The U.S. government may choose to take a strong stance against GMOs by enacting a total ban of genetically modified foods.
May declare the U.S. a GMO-free zone.

Prohibition may range from a ban on the cultivation of GMOs to research, imports, and the sale of certain GMO products.

Note: an expansion of regulatory costs and duties would arise in the course of administering this non-GMO policy such as:
traceability and detection
A total ban may afford protection against GMOs to organic farmers and consumers, but it comes at an extreme cost to those who would have otherwise purchased or grown GMOs.

This policy eliminates the opportunity for a much-needed, healthy debate on the topic of GMOs.

The cost of banning all GMO products exceeds the benefits gained, which would be borne by taxpayers and consumers who may have tolerated GMOs.

Given past U.S. regulatory failures and incompetence, this may only provide a "false sense of security."
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